For years, Russian secret services have placed agents in European nations, from where they conduct an unnoticed war against the West. They destroy, spy on, and murder dissidents while infiltrating IT firms. It has lasted much longer than the war in Ukraine and is a struggle for authority, influence, raw commodities, and money. On the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a significant number of American Viasat customers unexpectedly lost their satellite internet connection, demonstrating how closely the unseen war is tied to the apparent one. The Ukrainian army was the true objective of the strike, and 5,800 wind turbines in Germany lost contact with the grid centre.
According to the weekly Der Spiegel, one of the key objectives of Russia's "invisible" war is Germany. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) expressed alarm over attacks on the country's electrical networks in July. The administrations in Berlin, Paris, and Rome preferred to keep a blind eye although Eastern European nations, the United States, and Great Britain had been warning about Russian intelligence services for years, according to Spiegel. Koji thinks that the German governments were equally unaware of the threat posed by Russian espionage as they were of their reliance on Russian energy supplies, particularly gas.
Russian espionage, disinformation efforts, and cyberattacks now pose a greater threat because of Russia's aggressive assault against Ukraine, according to German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Given Germany's federal structure, her ministry issued a warning that the federal level's authority was insufficient to address the current threat. German foreign intelligence agency BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) even ceased counterintelligence efforts following the September 11, 2001 terrorist assault on the US on the grounds that Germany needed to focus on a new type of adversary.
Russia is now present in our networks, Wolfgang Wien, deputy director of the BND, has issued a warning. He claimed that the agency has a thorough understanding of the cyber world and that what they have discovered there is troubling.
Like the battlefield in Ukraine, where it has been demonstrated that soldiers still play a crucial role, Russia still relies on cadres and specific personnel for its espionage operations in Germany.
Maria Adele K. is one of the examples that made headlines. Adele K.'s passport bears the serial number of a member of the GRU's (Russia's military secret service) elite unit, which was established in 2009 and tasked with eliminating rivals. This unit was also responsible for the murder in Berlin's park and attempted to kill former spy Sergei Skripal in Velika Britain. According to Western reports, the GRU and SVR (Russia's foreign intelligence arm) are holding only about 70 "illegals" in the West. More agents are employed by the Russian Federation's embassies and consulates, which enjoy diplomatic immunity.
Western intelligence agencies estimated that at the start of this year, more than 150 Russian spies with diplomatic immunity were working in Germany alone. Few of their interlocutors assist them out of political commitment; most do it out of avarice or ignorance of what they are doing.
Ralph G. might have complied because he was politically committed. The German military reserve lieutenant colonel has been on trial in Düsseldorf since August for giving information to a GRU agent between October 2014 and March 2020. He met Mikhail Starov, a Russian attaché, during the Bonn Air Force Ball. Starov paid the reserve officer a visit a few months later at his residence in Erkrath, North Rhine-Westphalia. According to Ralph G., he gave him the names of Bundeswehr officials he believed to be pro-Russian. He utilised email addresses that were registered on web.de and Gmail, which made it simple to identify him. Although he allegedly didn't work for pay, he reportedly took many paid visits to Moscow to attend a security conference.
The case of Ilnur N, a Russian PhD student at the University of Augsburg, serves as an illustration of the operations of Russian spies. He was waiting in line to purchase fish in the summer of 2019 when a "random" consumer struck up a conversation with him in Russian. It was Leonid Strukov, who was formally serving as Munich's deputy consul general. This is an SVR officer, according to the German authorities. Strukov informed him that he frequently visited Augsburg and invited them to meet up for a beer. Ilnur N. describes how Strukov then revealed to him that he was aiding a former co-worker who was looking for investment opportunities in aviation companies at a Russian bank.
He asked N. if he might assist by sharing his knowledge of emerging areas of aeronautical technology research. N. concurred. He gathered data from open sources, but he also utilised his access to the university's data archive to get some information that was available for a fee.
Although he didn't divulge any private information, the deputy consul general nevertheless paid him; initially it was 100, then 200, and then 600 euros. The European Ariane 6 rocket caught the Russian spy's attention in particular, and N. was a significant source of intelligence there as well. The young scientist eventually started telling Strukov about his own studies into the creation of a cryostat, a chamber where extremely low temperatures are produced to test materials for space travel. Strukov first didn't seem interested, but during a subsequent encounter, he inquired in detail about the challenging problem.
Additionally, he requested that N. send him some of the research-related documents. He could just use his phone to take a photo of the screen if necessary. The BFV, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, which at the time already had Strukov under surveillance, put a halt to everything. N., like many of the Russians' informants, was essentially a useful moron.